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Coming Through Slaughter

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  5,781 ratings  ·  513 reviews
Bringing to life the fabulous, colorful panorama of New Orleans in the first flush of the jazz era, this book tells the story of Buddy Bolden, the first of the great trumpet players--some say the originator of jazz--who was, in any case, the genius, the guiding spirit, and the king of that time and place.

In this fictionalized meditation, Bolden, an unrecorded father of Jaz
Paperback, 156 pages
Published March 19th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1976)
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Johann Laesecke I am about halfway through this book and would agree to the dark and chilling review comments. As for experimental in form, it was published in 1976 a…moreI am about halfway through this book and would agree to the dark and chilling review comments. As for experimental in form, it was published in 1976 and reprinted many times so one might think there should be a lot of opinion out there about it. At this point I would give it two stars but will wait till the end to decide. It's not an easy read although a h.s. senior with a mind for this kind of reading could handle it. I can see lots of room for interpretations and discussions from this book. (less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
”What he did too little of was sleep and what he did too much of was drink and many interpreted his later crack-up as a morality tale of a talent that debauched itself. But his life at this time had a fine and precise balance to it, with a careful allotment of hours. A barber, a publisher of The Cricket, a cornet player, good husband and father, and an infamous man about town.”

 photo 547048b7-71e5-4ba5-b66a-e501df5dbafd_zpsz6ce79zo.png

Buddy Bolden takes ragtime and infuses it with the blues, creating a new music called Jass, an early offspring of wh
Matthew Quann
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Josh Bragg
Shelves: oh-canada
[3.5 Stars]

The first time I put on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew I was laying on my bed in the dilapidated housing the university passed off as residence. The walls were cold brick on three sides and thin plaster on the wall that separated me from my neighboring roommate. It was a perpetually cold room, whose prison cell-like quality was only overshadowed by the little outside light the east facing windows allowed in. This was during the time when I had a brief foray into the world of cigarette smok
Michael Ondaatje was already well established as a poet when he published this, a poet's first novel if ever there was one. It's an attempt to recreate the inner life of Buddy Bolden, a cornet player and pioneer of the new kind of American music that would soon become known as jass or jazz. No recordings exist of Bolden's playing, and very little is known of his life beyond the fact that he had a breakdown during a Mardi Gras parade, died years later in a Louisiana asylum, and was thought of by ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
"Idiosyncratic" would be an understatement. Its as if Italo Calvino is adapting a Wong-Kar-Wai script into a novel. Ondaatje dances on the sharp edge of Prose and Poetry. People are condensed into single paragraphs, experiences condensed into single words; its a lyrical Arpeggio of emotions ending in a sublime crescendo. A minimalist arpeggio that creates a cavernous symphony by striking the essential notes of human existence. ...more
I wanted to love this first novel of Ondaatje, but I am left feeling it is like a jazz improvisation that doesn’t achieve flight enough to linger long in the mind. My disappointment feels similar to looking for a Picasso Blue Period in the origins of his mastery and turning up instead an aborted Cubist Period. Still, it was worth it for me to experience this dalliance with a postmodernist structure and witness his transition from poet to novelist.

This slim 1976 book is an ambitious attempt to br
MJ Nicholls
The one novel on the Isle of Arran for sale that was remotely acceptable. There are no longer any remotely acceptable novels for sale on the Isle of Arran.
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you read something by an author and it's very good, and you think back over their other stuff that you've read, and realise that it was all good, and some of it was even very good, or very, very good, and you see suddenly that this writer is actually one of your absolute favourites, you just never articulated the thought until now.

I haven't read anything in a while that made me wish I could write as much as this. Not to say it was perfect. It's an early work and you can see how his cr
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In June 1907, Charles "Buddy" Bolden is 'escorted' by Civil Sheriffs McMurray and Jones en route from New Orleans to an insane asylum in Jackson, Louisiana. He has suffered a complete breakdown while playing with Henry Allen's Brass Band ('Red' Allen's father), marching in the Crescent City. He had broken blood vessels in his neck, and they had come through a small town called Slaughter on their way. These are some of the few hard facts known of the life of one of jazz's earliest pioneers, a lif ...more
Paul Secor
Thinking about this book, I remembered a line that's spoken near the end of the film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".
Donald M. Marquis, in his book In Search of Buddy Bolden ,, put together probably as many facts about the legendary New Orleans musician as we'll ever come to know. Michael Ondaatje, in this novel about Buddy Bolden (which was written before Marquis' book was published) has written a haunt
English Patient, who? Now THIS is more like it. Experimental, impressionistic prose in the wild subjective to convey the surging, elemental sensibility of one of the deeply mythological founders of that kind of thing and it necessitates this kind of writing. Very much enjoyed...
Michael Livingston
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant short book that stitches together historical records, various perspectives and tenses into a short and moving fictionalised biography of Buddy Bolden, credited with many as the inventor of jazz. It's a breathtaking technical achievement, but it's also just a deeply human book. ...more
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a lyrical, rhythmic story about real events, in the first decade of the 20th century. Many credit Charles "Buddy" Bolden as the creator of jazz, that most truly original American contribution to the arts. Ondaatje tells the story using a facsimile of the language of the time, and splays it out upon the page as if a jazz chart. It was fun, but bracing in its hardcore plundering and physical destruction of the human body and brain, the latter in the form of the shocking schizophrenia that ...more
Feb 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
There are few books that I say I will read again that I actually do (my opinion is that there are far too many books to re-read), and even fewer that I actually do read them again. This is one book that I believe will be one of those select few.

Often the heart is the one thing about poetry I actually understand. In this novel Ondatji's poetic heart comes through in a form I can relate to. Matters of genre-defining aside, this is truly a beautiful book of words and story.

I was moved and "in" fro
Patrick O'Connell
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This a fictional story based on the rich, the tragic, and true life of the New Orleans Jazz Musician Buddy Bolden. A historical figure of whom we know very little, of whom there is only one extant photo, and no recordings. Yet we know he eventually goes mad.

Michael Ondaatje weaves a captivating story from only shreds of evidence through a form of prose that I have never quite seen before. The narrator is constantly shifting, as is the chronology, as is the word form. Parts of this read like his
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a book!

I haven't read Ondaatje before, or at least not much, and I don't know what I expected, but the level of lyricism from page to page, paragraph to paragraph was really stunning and made this a really rather incredible read.

There are places where I have issues with it, or at least think I do (what happens to Webb, or the fact that the insanity seems so, I don't know, underconsidered-- maybe it's just me, but the link between these romantic triangles Bolden found himself in and the
May 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
I was looking forward to reading this novel, enticed by the promise of lyrical writing and a look into the life of New Orleanian jazz musician Buddy Bolden. All I found was a rambling, imitative style (think Nabokov, Faulkner, but less tightly written), and incessant focus on sex and women-as-sex-objects; almost every sex scene included violent language and felt misogynistic. While a motif of sex and sexuality would have been nothing to complain about in and of itself, it seemed a shame that thi ...more
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The beautiful, lyrical, poetic writing and the original, inventive form evoke a time, place and mood that really works.
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ondaatje fans
I read this in an attempt to understand a little more about New Orleans. I haven't been. And to read more of Ondaatje, who I love. And because I was 32, a year older than Buddy Bolden when he went insane.
Set in the Storyville district of New Orleans in the early days of the Jazz era, CTS unravels Bolden's life, (barber by day, cornet player by night) his sorted love life, madness, death-obsession, and jazz. Lyrical prose. Did I say lyrical? Sorry.

"And as told in Coming Through Slaughter, his sto
Barth Siemens
This novella leaves me wondering:

Am I a prude?
Did Ondaatje rely too much on vulgarity rather than digging for story?
B. Asma
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is a fictional work about an early jazz musician (and barber), Buddy Bolden. Its setting is the rough world of New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century. Since there is little first-hand information about him (a photo of the band and some institutional survive), Michael Ondaatje has an opportunity for creative freedom against the factual history of the place and people, such as the photographer E. J. Bellocq, in that era. My impression of the main character is his lack of a soul ...more
Carl R.
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Michael Ondaatje won't stay put. I've followed him from San Francisco (Divisadero) to Sri Lanka--one of his native lands--(Anil's Ghost) to the bowels of a Sri Lanka-to-England-to-Canada cruise ship (Cat's Table) to historical Toronto (Skin of a Lion) and finally to New Orleans for Coming Through Slaughter. Every Journey has been full of edification and delight.

Before Louis Armstrong and all of them there was Buddy Bolden, said to be the hottest trumpeter in all the Big Easy. He was never record
Mirnes Alispahić
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
When it comes to wordplay and style, Michael Ondaatje is a mage of old. There is no doubt about it. The magic of his writing is extraordinary; it stirs emotions and evokes memories, some not even belong to us, yet they come alive. 'Coming Through Slaughter' is his debut novel, though he was already an established poet by that time. If you've read his poetry, then this novel might not be too experimental for you because it can be viewed as a continuation of his poetry, so vivid and compelling in ...more
This is a difficult book to classify. It's based on a real person, but too fictionalised to be called biography or non-fiction. It's prose, but it's very experimental - as Ondaatje's first novel, I can see how he's still very much writing with a poet's mindset. And it's confusing, which might, I suppose, be intentional, given that it tells the story of how Buddy Bolden lost his mind. It's also meandering - again, perhaps this is intentional, as it does have the feel of listening to a skilled jaz ...more
Patrick McCoy
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I decided to read Michael Ondaajte's jazz age novel, Coming Through Slaughter (1976), as background reading to color in my recent trip to New Orleans. And color it did provide: sex, love triangles, gambling, drinking, whoring, music and a tour of the now lost Storyville red light district. This novel is a fictional depiction of the life of an obscure jazz musician, coronet player Buddy Bolden. It is experimental in form and has a lyrical quality that sets it apart from other novels in that much ...more
Halley Sutton
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm aware that I've been giving crappy reviews lately (not that any of you care. I CARE). I'm going to continue that trend. The most interesting thing here was how form fits function--this novel is a blues song in a book. Would probably not have chosen to read it on my own and it's not super helpful to my current aesthetic but still interesting. ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dark, experimental prose that plays with form and language, mirroring Buddy Bolden's descent into madness. Ondaatje has lines that reach up and smack you across the face in this one. ...more
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: i-own
I was very meh about this book after about 20 pages, which is a bummer because I really love Ondaatje’s work, but this just wasn’t it for me.
Jake Oelrichs
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This book was my introduction to Ondaatje. When I read it in my early 20’s I was enthralled. It seemed like a totally new and beastly species of fiction. I was amazed by its experimental form, poetic sparks, and shockingly brutal imagery. I’m 40 now, and was very curious to see how Coming Through Slaughter had aged for me. After a recent third reading, I gotta say, it remains one of my all-time favourite novels. Though, I have to admit, the climactic, bloody-cornet-explosion scene struck me as a ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first Ondaatje novel I have read and on the strength of this, I will certainly be seeking out his other books. This is the imagined story of Buddy Bolden, the jazz pioneer about whom very little is actually known, and the prose is exquisite, original, clever and frequently offbeat, just like the best jazz music. At times I was reminded of one of the absurd and highly inventive 'routines' of a William Burroughs novel, for example the incident of the woman who is strangled Isadora Duncan style ...more
J. Harding
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved the poetic prose of this novel; how have I missed this all these years? A beautifully written story. Recommended.
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He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit ...more

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“But there was a discipline, it was just that we didn't understand. We thought he was formless, but I think now he was tormented by order, what was outside it. He tore apart the plot - see his music was immediately on top of his own life. Echoing. As if, when he was playing he was lost and hunting for the right accidental notes. Listening to him was like talking to Coleman. You were both changing direction with every sentence, sometimes in the middle, using each other as a springboard through the dark. You were moving so fast it was unimportant to finish and clear everything. He would be describing something in 27 ways. There was pain and gentleness everything jammed into each number.” 14 likes
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